Dryland sheep and beef farmers are being encouraged to have a Plan A and Plan B up their sleeves as they head into spring and summer.
This is the advice from AgFirst farm consultant James Allen, who suggests farmers keep a close eye on pasture growth rates and soil moisture levels (available on Regional Council websites) throughout spring and set trigger dates now to ensure early decision making.
“At what stage do you decide to reduce your stocking rate and feed demand?”
While winter has been kind throughout most of the country and warm spring weather means good pasture growth and utilisation, farmers in regions such as Hawkes Bay and Canterbury are worried about soil moisture levels and the lack of recharge of bores and acquifers.
“Soil moisture reserves are just not there, and in some areas, there is potential for a repeat of last year which is making people nervous,” says James.
NIWA is predicting a La Nina weather pattern this spring which rues well for Northland and Waikato where there is greater potential for cyclonic rain, but normal or below normal rainfall is expected in many eastern areas.
James says farmers should be looking to maximise production now while conditions are good. This means making full use of high-quality, clover-rich spring pasture, maintaining pasture quality and maximizing silage or supplementary feed production.
Many farmers are going into summer with depleted reserves of supplementary feed and to off-set this, James says there has been an increase in the number of maize silage and summer forage crops grown this year.
While every opportunity should be taken to replenish feed supplies, James advises farmers to keep a close eye on weather conditions and be prepared to act quickly and early.
“It might be the first of December for example. At that stage assess how are things looking and what the action points are.”
Farmers still looking to build pasture covers would get a good response from spring nitrogen applications, but to ensure payback, they need to think hard about how this extra pasture will be used and for what stock class.
James says there is still value in carrying out a feed budget now and while it will be a high-level budget, it would help farmers identify what levers they could pull if feed supplies do get tight.
The feed planning service, through which farmers can get a feed budget done at no cost, is still up and running and sheep and beef farmers can access this service by phoning 0800233352.
For more information go to: https://beeflambnz.com/news-views/feed-management-resources